An Early Season Bluegill Fly

Have you noticed how some fishing lures and flies are hot for a season or two, then kind of fade away, while others keep right on producing year after year?

A lot of the fellows I fish with and I use a fly for bluegills that fits the latter category, at least here in the southern part of the state. The fly doesn't really have a name. It is variously called: Bluegill nymph, green nymph or sometimes, green bluegill nymph.

I guess, though, that if one of us should call out, "Does anyone have a bluegill nymph they could spare?" nearly everyone would know what he was asking for.

Although I have been tying and using it for a long time, only recently did I realize it imitated a damsel fly nymph closely. About all we knew about it was that it worked well for big bluegills in our weedy southern Wisconsin lakes.

There isn't really anything new or different about its design. It is just a simple, old-fashioned palmer fly, tied wet. I have seen a very similar pattern listed as a green caterpillar in older fly dictionaries.

It is tied with a bright green yarn body, golden-olive hackle and gold ribbing. Ten is a popular hook size, heavy in the iron.

The first ones were tied on extra stout salmon fly hooks, mostly I guess, because I had a couple of boxes of those, size 10, that I had no other immediate need for.

The fly works well for crappies and bass and, over the years, has taken several large carp also. By large, I mean big enough to tow the canoe around. Trying to get one of these up so you can net it is something else.

They were all hooked fair and square in the mouth and now that I think about it, this fly has caught more carp for me than all my other flies put together. Always, around weed beds and accidentally, when I was fishing for bluegills.

The same pattern on a twelve or fourteen hook and tied sparsely, is a good early season trout fly. Fish it in rapids and the turbulent pools just below rapids.

We first learned how effective the fly was years ago when Beckman Lake at Browntown, Wisconsin was first flooded over.

There had been a small impoundment there for a long time, full of stunted bluegills and not much of anything else. The Green County Conservation Club built another dyke and made a much larger flowage just below the existing one.

The little lake was seined, poisoned and the stunted bluegills, or at least some of them, were put into the new one along with bass and northerns. Trout were stocked in the little lake.

The bluegills in the new lake grew to incredible size in a couple of seasons. Eleven and twelve inch fish were common-place. Fly fishers had a hey-day and the green nymph was the "in" fly.

A year or so after the new lake was filled. Bob Larsen rapped on my door really excited. He said, "Bob, you better get over to that new lake at Browntown. It has bluegills nearly a foot long and they take that green nymph you showed me how to tie, like crazy". For the next couple of seasons fishing was fantastic and then it tapered off to stunted fish, evidently from over-population.

Here's how to tie the green nymph. Clamp a hook in the vise. Coat the hook with cement. Wrap a thread base from eye to bend by winding tying thread over itself at the front and spiraling it back in close winds to a spot on the shank directly above the barb. Half-hitch here and coat this winding with cement.

Now secure a strip of fine flat gold tinsel, a golden olive hackle feather by its tip and a strand of bright green yarn at the rear of the thread base. Do this with well cemented half-hitches and in the sequence given. It is important that when more than one material is used to make a body, that each be secured to the hook opposite than the order in which they will be wound. In other words, what will be wrapped first is tied on last.

Also, all wrapping should be done in the same direction, over and away from you. This helps insure a tight fly. Winding first one way and then the other will loosen it.

Palmer hackle is usually secured by the tip, because most feathers are narrower towards the tip. Securing it this way insures that the fibers, or legs, get a little longer towards the front like the natural.

Now advance the thread about three quarters of the way along the shank and secure with a half-hitch and cement again. This is where the front of the body will be.

Now wind the yarn ahead forming a cigar shaped body, just a little thicker in the shoulder area. Secure with a half-hitch and cement. Clip off excess.

Spiral the feather ahead with fairly wide wraps, three or four is about right, and secure in the same place, in the same manner. Cut off the excess.

Now wind the tinsel with about the same number of turns. Do this with a zigzag motion and you will wind hardly any hackle down. Secure this with a half-hitch and cement. Pick out any fibers you may have tied down and cut off excess.

Select a feather for the shoulder hackle and prepare it by trimming the soft, fluffy fibers from both sides of the stem at the butt, leaving a row of stubby barbules. Wrap over these to tie on. When cemented, these cut-off fibers help hold it fast.

Tie on by making a wrap and a half-hitch around it and the hook at the front of the body. Make two or three close winds of this feather, tight up against the body. Tie the tip down with a wrap and a half-hitch, cement and cut off the excess.

Make a head with several wraps of thread, tie off with a whip finish and cement well and your fly is done.

There is nothing new about a Palmer fly. Some historians think the fly that Aelian describes being used by Macedonians in the second century after Christ, "Red wool wrapped around a hook and two feathers from a cock's wattles affixed to this", was the soldier palmer, a very old English trout fly.

The name 'Palmer" given to this type of fly comes from Medieval England. Returning Crusaders brought palm leaves as souvenirs. They became known as palmers. Because they had walked a lot, the term became synonymous with walker. Since caterpillars, centipedes and so forth had a lot of feet and so appeared to do a lot of walking, the name was applied to them and to fishing flies that had hackle (feet) projecting their full length.

To this day caterpillars are called palmers in England.

Zander's Pond and Beckman Lake are now Cadiz Springs State Park.